By November 19, 2010

Meritline Adjustable Zoom Cree LED Flashlight Review

I love cheap stuff. I can’t help it. Sometimes I know I should just buck up and buy something that’s quality, but I can’t help but think:

  1. Is it worth paying the $x difference for the top brand, or is it good enough to buy something less expensive?
  2. I can buy several more of the cheaper ones for the same amount and spread them around.

Flashlights are a really good example. I think flashlights are super important and come in handy in all kinds of situations. I have one near each door of the house, in the island in our kitchen, two in each car, one on each keychain, and one in my pocket. I also put at least two in my bug out bags.

As you can see, the more flashlights I buy, the more important it is to stretch my money. If I bought a SureFire or similar for every spot I’d be out of money in a snap.

I also believe that not every flashlight needs to be super powerful. For example, a 10 – 40 lumens light is good for just general use. Dump a bunch of change underneath your car seat? Cheap 10 – 40 lumens flashlight to the rescue. Need to find a place in the forest for that disembodied arm? You may want something all the way into the 160+ lumen range.

So, my challenge was thus: buy an inexpensive 10 – 40 lumens LED flashlight for about $10USD. If I liked it enough, I’d buy more. I bought two LED flashlights from Meritline.com. I’m reviewing their anonymously named “Adjustable Zoom Cree” LED flashlight, item number 248-420-001.

If you’re not familiar with Meritline, here’s the quick run-down. They sell a lot of cheap stuff from Asia. Some of it is nice, some of it is crap, and sometimes you get nice stuff that has poor quality control and therefore one piece is nice and one piece is crap. I like the luck aspect of it, especially when I want to buy something weird.

The amount of time taken for order fulfillment and shipping appears to be completely based on Chaos Theory. Did a butterfly bump into a fruit fly in Africa? Your AZC may take four weeks to arrive. Sometimes stuff arrives within a week. Did a trade wind blow favorably into the face of a customs officer? Who knows!

In short, be patient and be willing to test out your purchases before relying on them.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/9932-2/IMG_2173.JPG

I bought my Adjustable Zoom Cree (AZC) for $9.99USD shipped. It was $2 on sale, but even at $11.99 it seemed like a decent contestant in the “cheap hopeful” flashlight contest.

Construction and size

The centerpiece to the AZC is its emitter. You can’t say “bulb,” because it’s an LED, but the emitter is like a bulb because that’s where the light comes from. The emitter on this flashlight is made by Cree, who makes a ton of different LEDs. They have a good reputation, and are used in some of the middle of the road and upscale flashlight brands.

Meritline doesn’t specify the model of the emitter or the estimated lumens, or the estimated wattage. However, it is supposedly operates at 5W. I have no way of testing this other than, “hrm that seems bright.”

The AZC is reasonably sturdy. The body is made out of aluminum. The head of the flashlight telescopes to achieve the zoom. The action itself seems “scratchy,” and the head rotates loosely without effect. The action is easily adjusted. Too easily, in my opinion. If you hold the flashlight in a reverse grip (on/off switch near the thumb side of your hand, the flashlight’s head facing out on the pinky side) it is quite easy to zoom out by accident when activating the switch.

The switch itself operates with a satisfying click. The travel on the switch is far enough to avoid turning the flashlight on accidentally. The switch is only a single stage (on, off) and I think this is a major design flaw on this light for a reason I’ll get to in just a moment.

The lens is glass.

The flashlight is a little less than 4.5″ when the head is zoomed all the way out. I think this is a good size for leaving in the car or in a drawer somewhere. Depending on your clothes and style, it may fit well in a pocket or it may be a little too big. I think the wider head of the flashlight to be more offensive for pocket carry than the length. I probably won’t put this in my front pockets and would only carry it in the cargo pocket of my shorts.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/9940-2/IMG_2174.JPG

Operation

Operation seems simple — at first. Click the rear-mounted switch. The flashlight comes on. Bad ass! Click it again, and the flashlight comes on again. So far so good. Click it again, and the flashlight strobes.

???

Turns out that the AZC has three modes of operation: high, low, and strobe. Unfortunately the switch only has a single operating position: on and off. This means that you have to click five times to get to the strobe. It also means that you can’t turn the flashlight on “high,” turn it off, and come back to high again. You have to click seven times to do this.

This is absolutely stupid and is the main reason I will not buy another one of these.

Yeah yeah, DrFaulken. But how good is the light?

Please keep in mind that I am not a flashlight guru. There are a TON of people out there who know everything about flashlights, the LED emitters used in them, the varying light dispersion patterns, color “warmth” values, the different performance for each model based on varying batteries used, etc. Flashlights are a tool to me, and I don’t care much about the technology behind them as long as they are inexpensive and do the job I ask them to do.

That being said, here’s my totally unofficial test of Meritline’s AZC.

I put the AZC up against the Garrity 1W LED light, my current “house” flashlight that I use for watching where the dogs go at night and for when the power goes out. The Garrity has a 1W LED made by Luxeon in it. The Garrity is a big spotlight and definitely not meant for on-body carry.

I put my camera on a tripod, lit up a tree at the edge of my properly line, and tried to focus the camera the best I could. The tree is about 80 feet away.

The Garrity 1W Luxeon light:
http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/9929-2/IMG_2170.JPG
Hey, it’s a tree!

Not bad, huh? Here’s AZC from Meritline:
http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/9938-2/IMG_2171.JPG

A few things to note here:

  • Yes I know the pictures terribly out of focus. Derp!
  • The AZC appears to be slightly brighter than the Garrity. This is pretty sweet given that the Garrity has a much larger form factor and runs on 4 AA batteries instead of the AZC’s three AAAs.
  • The zoomed-in beam pattern is a rectangle, unlike the more “normal” circle on the Garrity. I don’t really care, it’s just interesting.
  • Both are good enough to see to the edge of my property.

Here’s where the AZC really kicks the Garrity’s ass, though. I imagined myself outside at night, letting the dogs out for the last time. I imagined hearing some big ass monster scraping along, moaning softly in the darkness.

Click. High beam comes on, zoomed in at maximum. I don’t see anything but the tree.

“What the F is that?” my dog Porter whispered.

“No idea, let’s hide,” I replied.

“No dad, bust out the zoom.”

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/9934-2/IMG_2172.JPG
Shazam!

The flood from the zoomed out mode was awesome. It illuminated about a third of my yard without having to pan in either direction, and I could still see all the way to the tree at the back fence.

Too bad that switch sucks.

Conclusion

Are there better flashlights out there? Most definitely. There are tiny flashlights about the size of a AAA battery that are six times as bright as the Adjustable Zoom Cree flashlight from Meritline. There are much larger flashlights that are so bright that they can burn ants from the moon.

However, they are all more than $10, and may actually be too bright for your everyday needs.

Unfortunately the switch is terrible on the AZC. If I could disable the “low” and “strobe” modes I would, but I don’t think that’s possible. The manufacturer should have either stuck with one mode, or put a multi-stage switch on instead.

As such, the Meritline Adjustable Zoom flashlight with the Cree LED is just too annoying to use.

Not recommended.

Related posts:

Tags: , , ,

2 Comments on "Meritline Adjustable Zoom Cree LED Flashlight Review"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. roclar says:

    I really like the rectangular pattern. :/ The zoom was fun to fiddle with as well. I have no opinion on this flashlight as a tool.

  2. Ray says:

    I work in the aviation maintenance industry and use a flash light all the time. I love my Cree. You can’t beat it for the money. Can hold it with one hand and adjust the zoom and it is plenty bright for inspecting engines and things at a close distance. I would much rather spend money on toys than a expensive flashlight any day.

7ads6x98y